Vanity Fair's January 2013 edition will mark its first-ever Comedy Issue, and as part of its coverage, the magazine teamed up with "60 Minutes" to discover what Americans really think about comedy.
Some of the findings of their poll, which used a random sampling of 1,132 adults across the country, may be expected, while some may prove more controversial. For instance, 60 percent of those polled said that men are the funnier sex, with only 22 percent answering that women are funnier. (Fifteen percent said there is no difference.)
Such a discrepancy is sure to irk many. Christopher Hitchens' infamous 2007 opinion piece "Why Women Aren't Funny," published in Vanity Fair, sparked controversy that has yet to flame out in public discourse. A 2011 study conducted at UC-San Diego found that viewed objectively, men and women are found to possess the same sense of humor, although judging sense of humor across an entire sex is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.
According to the Vanity Fair poll, women also were much more likely to think that certain topics are off limits for humor. While women and men agreed about equally that sexual assault should not be a topic for comedy (at 38 percent and 32 percent, respectively), women were twice as likely to say that jokes about sexual assault, Sept. 11, those who are sick or disabled, and religious figures were all off limits (14 percent to 28 percent).
How Americans respond to comedy could have implications beyond the trivial. A couple informal polls conducted by Comedy Central earlier this year indicated that youths tend to trust a candidate more respond to a candidate if he or she makes them laugh, and that sense of humor is the most crucial element in how most youths self-identify.
Some of the less controversial findings of the Vanity Fair study include:
- "Seinfeld" is the funniest sitcom of all time, followed closely by "The Honeymooners." (We question the median age of poll responders were, as "The Honeymooners" ended over half a century ago.)
- Q is the funniest letter.
- DMV workers possess the worst sense of humor of any profession.
- Judd Apatow, who guest edited Vanity Fair's Comedy Issue, is unknown to the public. Of those polled, 64 percent did not know who he is. The second highest guess at 15 percent is that he is a former Clinton speechwriter. Only 14 percent responded correctly, that he is a successful writer/director/producer.
For more results from the poll, click over to Vanity Fair.